Social Media Causing Your Teen Stress?
Photo courtesy of Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock.com
What if the stress of everyday life could be found in the palms of your child’s hands? Unfortunately, stress lurks in an area where many people would not expect — social media. Young adults in today’s society have to rely heavily upon social media platforms in order to remain up to date on current trends, event, and other social aspects. In addition, social media has become an accepted and popular form of leisure. Between classes, teenagers are quick to scroll through Instagram feeds, view Snapchat stories, and retweet other posts — all before the sounding of the tardy bell. This use continues even after school ends — with selfies, direct messaging and other forms of expression and communication — but who knew that these leisurely activities might be causing more stress than relaxation?
Since social media has become an integral part of everyday life for many young adults, it is important to address its adverse effects on stress levels and well-being. Researchers found that social media-related stress led to an increase in a variety of negative emotional and psychological responses, such as emotional exhaustion, social comparison and quitting behavior (Lim & Choi, 2015). In this context, emotional exhaustion refers to overloading your brain with the frequent use of social media to a point where your body experiences fatigue (Lim & Choi, 2015). Various small factors can manifest themselves into emotional exhaustion over time. For example, if your child has ever worried about the possible long-term effects their posts might have on their future professional, academic or even personal life, then they have experienced a branch of emotional stress related to privacy concerns.
Another aspect of social media-induced stress is social comparison. When scrolling through social media, numerous images of other people will flash across your child’s screen. In addition to merely viewing these pictures, your child also subconsciously compares himself or herself to the people in them. (Lim & Choi, 2015) Unfortunately, most of those people only post pictures that highlight the happy moments of their lives and the best versions of themselves. They are not posting pictures of themselves crying over their first love or stuffing food into their mouths before class starts, because they would rather share their ideal version of reality with the world. This is something that the parents of college student Madison Holleran wished their daughter fully understood before taking her own life. Madison was an Ivy League track star. Madison was another young adult using social media, and she was someone pushed to the edge by social comparison. Holleran was a first-year student at the University of Pennsylvania struggling with both balancing her academic life and the belief that she was not getting the “full college experience.” The pictures her friends posted at parties and school events led her to believe that her life of track practice, school work and sleepless nights was not adequate and would be better off removed from the world.
Like Holleran, children sometimes fall prey to the idea that other people are living better lives than they. We need to remember that although it is apparent that they bury their heads in social media, it is less understood that they also bury their emotions, confidence and well-being in it as well. With young adults’ dependency on social media, it would be unreasonable to suggest completely eliminating it from their daily lives. This is why we need to encourage them to develop healthy coping habits when dealing with social media-induced tension. Researchers found a direct method of coping to be very effective in relieving stress (Lim & Choi, 2015). This approach requires individuals to take an active role in reducing feelings of discomfort or insecurity that accompany social media use. People using a direct coping approach will address the issue and develop a practical solution. For instance, instead of worrying about the future implications of a certain selfie, someone using direct coping will either delete the image or alter privacy settings in an effort to limit public access. With this being said, we must inform young adults to confront the stresses of social media head on in order to make strides toward improving their overall health and well-being.
Alexandria Marsicovetere is a participant of Uplift Plus at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a program that seeks out high-achieving high school students who have been historically underrepresented in higher education. Her editorial — written for her freshman English class this summer — is among the first in a series of posts by other Uplift Plus students to be published by Carolina Parent. The editorials, assigned by UNC English teacher Moira Marquis, asked students to research a contemporary social issue for young adults and share their findings.